Friday, April 23, 2010

Home and dry

Never a fan of big last nights, my last night in Bimini appropriately was an animated games night at the kitchen table while the sky cried torrentially. These meterological tears were a precursor to my own the next morning as I said goodbye to the Sharklab and the amazing team of staff and volunteers that it housed.

A function of living, working and playing together for three months, we were a tight-knit group that often sounded like a gathering of the United Nations at a comedy club.

When not sharing vulgar, side-splitting laughs about sex or poo, we discussed at length the food items we would give our left breast/nut for. Failing to find common ground there, conversation reverted back to sharks - and almost always to their claspers or cloacas. Those four topics exhausted, chatter turned to taking the piss out of someone either for their accent or where they called home.

Home and 700 meters of elevation removed from sea level and four plane rides away from Bimini, my mental state is beginning to settle down. Emotions thoroughly all over the spectrum from leaving Bimini, part of me was ready and glad to be heading back to Edmonton - even if only for a while.

Travel outfits

Sprinting through the Memphis airport to the tune of "paging passenger Connolly" on the intercom with two rum bottles clanking up against each other in my carry-on, I spotted this couple. They were a comforting reminder that there were more matching travellers than just Robyn and I.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Departure downs

It's nearly time for me to once again roll on. After being minorly fucked over on my departure flight, I'm leaving Bimini on Monday.

I'm ready to move on, which is likely the result of 6.5 years of a dragged-out university degree. My uni terms were compartmentalized into four month segments and I seem to have developed only a four-month attention span.

The Sharklab further built on carefully controlled intervals.

We checked the gillnets every 15 minutes, changed tracking duties every hour, looked to first, second and occasionally third lunch to break up the day when on the boat for nine hours.

In my three months here, I was constantly awed by the diversity of the sea here, yet continually shocked and amazed at how filthy shark biologists are. I thought my summers working in the forest industry had exposed me to every rude comment imaginable, but it is outrageous what leaves, or occasionally enters, mouths here.

Conversations are quickly reduced to innuendos about sex and poo with remarks about sharks and food thrown in for variety. These four topics bind all of us together into a tight coagulation of what sounds like a gathering of the United Nations at a comedy club.

Amidst all the filth and occasionally trying tasks of manually clearing out the septic tank with shovels and buckets, being defecated on by pelicans and working through the night fishing for juvenile sharks over an entire tidal cycle in 20 mile per hour winds and sporadic downpours, assisting a PhD candidate collect her field research has been extremely rewarding.

Expectations more than satisfied, I have also learned and done things I would have baulked at in January such as accept a dinner party invitation from rowdy women claiming to be pirates driving a golf cart and consuming pink drinks, snake hunt and nearly daily handle sharks.

Five days left until I am back on Alberta soil and the rotating and often revolving cast of volunteers and staff along with a plethora of elasmobranches will ensure a second Bahamian stamp in my passport.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Course's work

The Sharklab celebrated Easter Friday by tracking juvenile lemon sharks in the day and joining the invading hordes of American holiday makers on the north island for night one of Junkanoo and excessive dancing in the streets and dock-side pubs.

We needed a mildly wild night out after hosting a university elasmobranch course for five days. Kicked out of the lab for its duration, we were moved to an apartment down the road. We somewhat grudgingly took this minor inconvenience and made the absolute most of it. The volunteers often went out to help with their seatrips in whatever capacity we were needed - boat drivers, bait cutters and throwers, photographers. I helped out with baiting in 18 blacktips, and escorting the students down a mangrove-lined channel so they could hand feed juv lemons.

The second last night, I scored a dinner invitation that the others are still bitter over. Walking back to the apartment, a golf car pulled up and offered me a ride home - offering and accepting rides from complete strangers is normal and expected in Bimini. When I saw the driver and her three passengers had pink drinks in fish covered glasses, I knew it would be a crazy ride back. Stopping next door to where we were staying, the middle aged women invited me in for a dinner of steak, lobster, fresh wahoo, veggies and rum punch. The lobster or rum punch wasn't their cause of envy. It was the steak. Collectively, we haven't had steak in decades. I paid dearly for my dinner engagement the next morning.

Getting up hungover at 6:50 am to be at the lab at 7:10 am to set a vertical longline in the Gulf Stream on four foot rolling seas was the opposite of fun. The morning after a full moon has its perks though. Still stumbling and reeking of rum punch, I enjoyed these vistas.

Hauled up by hand, the 1800 feet of the vertical long line netted us three! tiger sharks.

The largest was 3.28 meters! They tied him alongside the boat so we could get in and snorkel with him.

I'm home in less than three weeks. Eeekk. It's going to be difficult to leave, but I am also eagerly anticipating my impending uni graduation and northern B.C. summer.